Spanish Delegate wants to Ban Public Protests


Cristina Cifuentes wants to limit the right of the Spanish people to protest in public.

No self-entitled bureaucrat likes to be contested, questioned or responded to. Despite the existence of a constitutional right to publicly protest on the streets, there are people who think it is a good idea to limit or simply ban such action. In fact, there are people who support banning or limiting public protests while encouraging police violence against protestors.

This is the case of Cristina Cifuentes, a Madrid Delegate who last week praised the acts of police brutality against some of the thousands of protesters that arrived outside Congress to raise the heat against the deadly austerity measures imposed by the Mariano Rajoy administration. On Tuesday, Ms. Cifucentes went beyond its praise of violence to call for legal reform to limit and eventually ban public protesting.

It’s not me, it’s the law, said Cifuentes on Friday after a colleague of hers, Ana Botella, complained about “too many” demonstrations in the capital of Spain. On Tuesday, Cifuentes said that the law is “very permissive and wide” regarding the right of assembly and that the demonstration was out of control. She questioned whether it was necessary to debate and approve the imposition of limits to the right to protest.

Although Cifuentes commented on such limitations in a very spontaneous way, she rapidly proposed to put in place “modular” laws to “rationalize the use of public space.” The bureaucrat also attempted to clarify that it would not change the Constitution, but it would check out the Organic Law governing this right, not to “cut it” but to expand the room for maneuvering that the Administrations has to change routes and schedules.

Cifuentes’ speech is very well known in other parts of the world such as the United States, where the government called for ‘rational’ ways to limit free speech and protesting by designing a plan through which people could only protest in so-called ‘free speech zones’. These zones are designated by the government and are usually located far, far away from public offices or events such as G10 meetings or secretive encounters of world re-known philanthropists.

But what does the Spanish Constitution say about public protesting?

The right of expression and assembly, as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution, which reads: “The right of peaceful assembly, without arms. The exercise of this right shall not require prior authorization.” Add that to the “case of meetings in public places and events,” will  need to inform “the authority,” which can only forbid it if there are “substantial grounds for disorderly conduct, endangering persons or property” .

This last sentence is very important, because it is from there where people like Cifuentes may seek the legal backing to impose limitation to  both free speech and public protesting. As it has happened in many occasions, governments could use agent provocateurs to cause disorderly conduct, hurt police or protesters in order to limit the right of the peaceful mass to protest in front of Congress, for example.

In an interview with National Public Radio (RNE), Cifuentes reiterated that Madrid is “a complicated city because demonstrations are permanent and disproportionate”, a view based on one fact that people in Spain are sick and tired of government robbing them of their livelihoods and decided to take to the streets in numerous occasions. There have been almost 2,200 rallies and demonstrations in Madrid this year. Last Friday alone 2732 stood outside Congress and thousands more occupied the same place on Saturday and Sunday. Back in  2011 there were 1380 public demonstrations.

“The theme of the protests is a timely issue that is given by the political moment and encouraged because there are groups trying to get on the street that have failed at the ballot box,” she argued, blaming the Socialists without naming them, for the increase of street protests.

Cifuentes said that she knows there is a Constitutional right to protest in public, but that the rights of the rest of the people are also as important, which is the reason why she is proposing to limit or ban such activity. This is the traditional collectivist point of view that seeks to impose a particular way of thinking and is often excused by the ‘it is in the best interests of the majority’ argument.

Cifuentes is proposing a ‘compatible solution’ with the right of the rest of the population “to be in a livable city.” According to her, this means that people are “able to move with ease, without incidents, riots, or problems of public order.” In this sense, Cifuentes defends changes in legislation, but has not detailed how it would work. “What I want is to open a debate because any amendment must be adopted by a broad consensus.

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Madrid Delegate Salutes Police Brutality


The government of Madrid has put all of its support behind the acts of police brutality that took place Tuesday in the Spanish capital. Voices of congratulation came from various bureaucrats who said the the actions taken by the National Police “demonstrated their professionalism in very difficult circumstances.”

The most vociferous of all public servants was the Spanish government delegate in Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, who said in an interview for National Spanish Radio that the police “received a disproportionate attack” with stones, screws, bottles” and other objects. The Government delegate “absolutely” defended police actions and accused protesters of “extreme violence”.

Some political parties such as PSOE and IU have denounced police actions as “repressive”, “disproportionate” and even “excessive”. The protest, called 25-S Surround the Congress prompted the local government to protect the Congress building with 1,400 armored riot police, who in their fights with protesters, resulted in the imprisonment of 35 people with 64 others wounded.

The Madrid delegate compared the protests to the February 23 coup blaming the incident on “radical and anti-establishment people” and regretted that the demonstration did not end in “peaceful” manner. Speaking later in the Madrid Assembly, Cifuentes detailed what she called a “proper and proportionate” by the police who according to her were “very professional” while “repelling aggression” from demonstrators.

She added that she had no knowledge of attacks on journalists, police excesses or failures by police officers to identify themselves should a protester requests it. She said that “if there has been a violation of the law, we will act accordingly.”

“If the police had not acted as they did, the protesters would have entered the Congress”, said Cifuentes who condoned the lack of identification of the anti-riot police saying that protesters sometimes attempt to photograph the badges, so they wear them underneath their protection vests. In the past, protestors have posted the badge numbers and photos of riot police officers on social networks and called for full investigations on their violent acts.

The Madrid delegate continued to accuse demonstrators of using “tactics” to “provoke the police.” She said that some people posted manual on the internet on how to provoke police, but she presented no proof that those people were part of the organization that called for the demonstration or that any of those individuals were in any way connected with the demonstrations.

“Yesterday was a clear example of this,” said Cifuentes, who pointed out some of these “tactics” as “drop to the ground when required by the police with their hands on their heads to make look like police abuse or scream when they are subject to detention. “The assembled made good use of the whole repertoire” to give a sense of “police brutality”.

In the halls of Congress, the Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz, has also supported police actions against the protestors and has called their actions as “extreme violence”. In his view, the police acted “magnificently” and “did their duty” to “some protesters who used too much violence.” Fernandez added that the police “fulfilled the law in particularly complex circumstances” and justified the actions taken by anti-riot police. “I commend the police, who acted extremely well and thanks to them the intention to illegally and unconstitutionally occupy Congress and coerce its members did not succeed”.

Demonstrations in front of Congress are prohibited when parliamentary activity is ongoing, which officials said was what prompted government to consider it as an illegal coup. In Spain the Criminal Code defines the protests before the House of Representatives as punishable with jail if they disturb the “normal functioning” of the Chamber.

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